Sexuality in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Importance of Sexual Freedom
The world portrayed in the hospital ward is one of sexual repression and inhibition. This is exemplified in the Big Nurse as well as in Nurse Pilbow, who is frightened of the patients' sexuality. It is frequently emphasized that the Big Nurse has large breasts, the mark of her femininity, but she tries to conceal them. Everything about her and the ward is sterile, cold, and lifeless, from the Big Nurse's manner down to the white starched uniforms of the staff. The first thing that McMurphy notices about the ward is that the Big Nurse emasculates and weakens the men. He calls her a "ball-cutter" (p. 58), and Harding agrees. In other words, the ward is like a matriarchal society which castrates men. This is graphically symbolized by the death of Rawler, who commits suicide by castrating himself and bleeding to death. In a less literal manner, this is what is happening to all the patients. In contrast, McMurphy is totally open about sex and enjoys his masculine sexual power. He frequently makes sexual remarks to the Big Nurse. He tells the doctor about the statutory rape charge against him without any shame, claiming that the girl lied about her age and was as much the instigator of the act as he was. When he and the men return from the fishing trip he tells a fond story of how he first had sex when he was less than ten years old, with a 9-year-old girl named Judy. Her dress is still caught up high in the branches of a tree, and all the men see it as they drive past the house. For McMurphy, this is almost a badge of honour. When he tells the Chief that he can restore him to his original size, he tries to encourage the Indian by visualizing women clamouring for his sexual attentions. McMurphy thinks that Billy Bibbit, instead of being cooped up in a psychiatric ward, should really be out pursuing girls, and he clearly believes that Billy can conquer his stutter by having sex with Candy. Finally, when McMurphy attacks the Big Nurse,...
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